Writing on the NYT redesign, Design Observer: Apocalypse Now, Page A1 “Enhancing legibility is invoked as a goal […]

Writing on the NYT redesign, Design Observer: Apocalypse Now, Page A1

“Enhancing legibility is invoked as a goal (as well as adding a little dramatic heft to the poor “spindly” “A” head) but the clear aim, above all, is consistency. Clients understand (and love) consistency, and the Cheltenham family drawn by Matthew Carter is well suited to this purpose.”

If there is one red herring in design of stuff, I suspect it is consistency. As human observers we recoil from inconsistency, yet as human users we seem to ignore it.

This is an observation gleaned from web tests so I may be stretching it to include print, but in the many user research studies I’ve seen, while users get a lift in ease-of-use, happiness, confidence, etc. from UI object consistency, they are almost utterly unaffected by design consistency.

In fact if one is trying to use inconsistency to message a change (of location or of state for example) one has to nearly hit the user over the head with it, using vibrant colors and huge font messaging.

I’ve seen users change sites willy-nilly without realizing they had left the parent site until prompted “where are you” and even then only a percentage noted they had changed sites, usually with a glance at the upper left hand corner. This often has disasterous effects if they expect functionality to follow them from spot to spot.

How valuable is consistency when it comes to graphic design, I wonder? Perhaps it’s simply best to choose the most effective design for the moment, and let god sort them out….


Add Yours
  1. 1
    dave p.

    I’ve noticed that any time a publication changes its design a few people complain about it, saying they preferred the previous incarnation, but most just accept the redesign. As long as it doesn’t affect the content, it’s fine. I think even the complainers come around eventually, getting used to it and then complaining at the next redesign about how they preferred the previous incarnation.

  2. 2

    Seems to me that consistency is one of those principles of design that’s been proven by hundreds of years of practice. Only designers would probably notice careful visual consistency, but careless inconsistancy is pretty obvious to most thoughtful observers.

Comments are closed.